Baker Una Feral at Seattle's Café Javasti makes scones and cakes that soothe and edgy art that stimulates.
To hear Una Feral tell it, there’s not much difference between her day job making graffiti and science-inspired art and her graveyard-shift toils as pastry maker for Café Javasti in North Seattle. No difference between making art with an edge and morsels that melt in the mouth.
“With both, you use your hands, you make things,” says the 26-year-old Feral, who learned to paint growing up around artist parents and who learned to bake by watching her mom in the kitchen.
Feral believes beauty can be found in the oddest of places — a graffiti-covered wall, a biological specimen, a person’s silence.
Some mornings after baking, she’ll stick around to watch the expressions on customers’ faces as they take those first lusty bites of her scones and cakes. It must inspire a certain wonder to look back and see that the baker of these sumptuous delights sports a partly shaved, tattooed head, tattered pants and giant earrings, a veritable Betty Crocker in combat boots.
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For this married former street kid and wanderer, the act of baking fulfills a contrasting interest in rigid process: “I just know I have to follow all these esoteric rules and everything will be OK,” she says.
Feral’s something of a puzzle herself.
She considers flowers “the graffiti of the natural world,” and her favorite baked good isn’t some decadent dessert but the scones she makes for nuns in North Seattle who never leave their compound and whom she’s never visited. “I try to make them with extra care for the nuns,” she says.
Operating within constraints — be they canvasses or recipes or convents — intrigues her.
In “sad but not sentimental” paintings such as “Speech Fails Genie,” which features a stenciled image of her muse, an institutionalized woman with a language impediment Feral’s been reading about, the dialogue between revelation and restraint plays out against acid greens and bloody reds, as if by peeling away the skin of consciousness, you reveal the psyche in its rawest state.
Many of her dark artworks also contain bits of text and symbols, an indecipherable message to viewers. But like hunger sated and the call to art and human connection, some things dwell beyond language.
As Feral says, “People can live without cupcakes and they can live without art, but they’re really great to have around.”